Why and how did the children see the futility of war in the poem ‘After Blenheim’ by Robert Southey?
Or, How did Kaspar’s grandchildren react about the war?
Robert Southey has depicted the futility of war through the eyes of the children in his poem ‘After Blenheim’.
The two children, Peterkin and Wilhelmine, find a skull while playing in the field and shows it to their grandfather to satisfy their curiosity. Then Kaspar goes on to give them an account of the battle, how it started, how people were forced to flee, how people were killed and houses were burnt down etc. He also repeats that it was a famous victory and the English leaders got much praise for the victory. But what strikes the two children is that the war did not bring anything good to the life of people. No one was benefited by it. So, they protested by saying the battle a ‘wicked thing’ and asking Kaspar what good came of it.
‘Why, ’twas a very wicked thing!’
Said little Wilhelmine.
‘But What good came of it at last?’
Quoth little Peterkin.
The children could actually feel the pity of war and see the futility because of their innocence. Old Kaspar is a common man and the propaganda of war has been indoctrinated in him. So, he sees wars from a romantic viewpoint as a matter of pride, patriotism and heroism. But the children are innocent and not yet affected by those false ideals. So, they can see only the horrors of war and the destruction of lives and property caused by the Battles.
I am telling this in short –
Wilhelmine and peterkin were not at the time of war, when the heroicism of the Duke and Prince were praised. So they thought that it was nothing but a great loss to the country as many of the soldiers and innocents were killed without any reason.
Because the children were small and innocent, there was a different thinking of them. They thought that there is no advantage of having wars, also war brings nothing but loss, destruction, enmity and anxiety. No one can be a winner or a loser in a war, because killing someone is not a good thing. Instead we can sit and talk and solve the matter. But there should be patriotism also for one’s country. So Kaspar was also not wrong on his side.